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Reach Out and Touch

Heather Redfern
SEPTA Press Officer

Kids love vehicles - cars, trucks, construction equipment. The bigger the ride, the better. But how often do children get a chance to "get up close and personal" with buses, big rigs and emergency responder units? "Touch-a-Truck" events, a relatively new type of community activity, are giving kids across the country the opportunity to sit behind the wheel.

In the Greater Philadelphia region, SEPTA buses can regularly be found at Touch-a-Trucks alongside cement mixers, motorcycles, ambulances, police cars, tow trucks, military vehicles and more. Children climb aboard, honking horns, turning steering wheels and letting their imaginations take over as they pretend to drive down streets, picking up passengers, rescuing people, moving dirt or hauling trash.

Touch-a-Trucks don't just allow children the chance to fulfill their fantasies of operating big machines - they also provide for unique learning experiences.

"The events are great educational tools," said Rochelle Culbreath, a SEPTA Constituent Relations Coordinator who often organizes the Authority's Touch-a-Truck participation. "Our operators are on hand to discuss their jobs, how to drive the bus, the mechanical system and safety measures the public should take when riding on or being near a bus."

Because Touch-a-Trucks are family-friendly, they have gained popularity as fundraisers for numerous community groups. "Black-tie galas and luncheons are adults only," said Culbreath. "But for a minimal amount, like $20 per family, parents can include their kids in a fun afternoon out for a good cause, with a little learning snuck in."

SEPTA participates in about four Touch-a-Trucks annually - a number Culbreath anticipates will grow as the activities become more widespread in the Authority's service region. "There is little cost for the organization hosting the program and the festive atmosphere is appealing to a wide audience," she said. "For SEPTA, since some of the children attending the events have never taken public transportation, we are able to introduce them to a whole new world of travel via mass transit. It's a win-win for everyone."

SEPTA employee Mark Cassel gives kids an overview of a hybrid bus before they climb aboard.

Part of the Touch-a-Truck events includes getting an up close look at the buses' engines.

Emergency response vehicles, such as ambulances, police cars and fire engines, are among the vehicles that join SEPTA buses at Touch-a-Truck events.

Rochelle Culbreath, who often organizes SEPTA's participation in Touch-a-Truck events, takes a break on SEPTA's permanent Touch-a-Truck vehicle - the trolley on display at the Authority's headquarters.